Disruption in the Wind: Talking with FloDesign’s New CEO, Lars Andersen

On Tuesday, FloDesign Wind Turbine of Wilbraham, MA, announced that it has raised $35 million in Series B funding from a list of marquee venture capital firms and hired a new CEO to go along with the new money. Both moves are aimed at setting the company on the path to commercialization of its unusual wind-turbine design, which resembles a jet engine on a stick much more than a conventional windmill.

Yesterday, I caught up by phone with Lars Andersen, who’s spent all of two weeks in FloDesign’s CEO chair. (Andersen replaces company founder Stanley Kowalski, who has become a vice president.) If the startup was searching for a wind industry veteran, it couldn’t have found one with more experience than Andersen, who’s been in the energy generation and wind business for 20 years, and has spent the last five building up the Chinese division of Vestas, the Danish wind company that manufactures nearly 30 percent of the world’s wind turbines.

Below is a compressed version of our conversation. As you’ll see, Andersen was evasive about the details of FloDesign’s technology, but he says the approach is a “disrupting” one that could change the way the world looks at wind energy.

Xconomy: Tell me a bit about how you connected with FloDesign, and why you decided to leave Vestas to lead a much smaller company.

Lars Andersen: I think, first of all, that the time with Vestas has been a fantastic time. I’ve had many good opportunities, not least during the last five years, which I spent building the business of the company in China. It’s been a good an exciting journey.

I connected with FloDesign through a series of interviews. I was approached, first of all, by a headhunter, and went through a series of due-diligence studies of my own, and interviews with the investors and the company and the founders and the team that is there today. And I got very excited about the technology and also the team they have there that has done all the research and the innovation.

From a high-level perspective, this is a very good opportunity in the wind industry. There has been a lot of innovation in the industry, but it has been very stepwise innovation, with gradual improvements here and there. Here is a totally different and disrupting technology that could make a breakthrough in the industry and in the way we look at wind energy today. That’s really what got me interested—being part of that development and that journey.

X: What excites you so much about the technology? For example, does it offer a realistic way around the Betz Limit [a physical cap on the efficiency of open-fan wind turbines]?

LA: Well, I hope you understand that there are a lot of things about the technology that I can’t talk about. And I’ve only spent two weeks on the job, so … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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